WATERTOWN — Republican congressional candidate Matthew A. Doheny has called on his primary opponent, Elise M. Stefanik, to ask a GOP super PAC to discontinue a negative campaign ad that has begun running against him.
The 31-second spot paid for by American Crossroads, “Mistakes,” outlines several reasons why Mr. Doheny is “unfit for Congress,” according to documents filed with cable and broadcast media outlets in the 21st Congressional District.
In a news release Wednesday, Mr. Doheny made use of remarks made by Ms. Stefanik during a Time Warner Cable News debate last week to ask her to “stay true to her pledge to run a positive campaign and tell her supporters at American Crossroads to take down their negative attack ad.”
“Throughout this campaign Elise Stefanik has boasted of her positive campaign and north country roots, yet yesterday her Washington friends and supporters at American Crossroads did something they have never done before and attacked another GOP congressional candidate,” Mr. Doheny said in the release. “I’m calling on Elise to simply stay true to her own campaign ‘pledge to the people’ and tell American Crossroads to take down the ad.”
A spokeswoman for Ms. Stefanik’s campaign, Charlotte Guyette, responded in an email: “Elise has run an issues-focused, positive, grassroots campaign from day one, and will continue to do so. She has stayed positive in all her campaign messaging, unlike her opponent, and her message is resonating with voters all across the North Country. If Mr. Doheny doesn’t like the issues raised by a group that used to support him, he should complain to them, not to us.”
Ms. Stefanik said during the debate: “I’m running a positive campaign focused on the issues, and my opponent offers nothing more than negative mudslinging and filling Republican voters’ (mail) boxes with untruthful statements about my public service record,”
She was referring to a claim made on a flier issued by Mr. Doheny’s campaign that the Watertown Daily Times reported she was involved in developing the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
That claim is not true. The Times did not report that Ms. Stefanik was involved in developing the federal bailout program, but that she had worked in the White House from 2006 to 2009 on the Domestic Policy Council staff and in the chief of staff’s office.
Ms. Stefanik did, however, work in the George W. Bush White House during the same period that Karl Rove, one of the co-founders of American Crossroads, worked as deputy chief of staff in the Bush administration.
Mr. Doheny, an investment fund manager from Watertown, has run for the seat twice before, in 2010 and 2012. Both times he was defeated by U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. In 2009, Mr. Doheny flirted with running for the seat before the Republican committees in the district endorsed former Assemblywoman Dierdre K. Scozzafava.
This is Ms. Stefanik’s first run for public office. She is a Harvard graduate who works as a sales representative at her family’s plywood distribution business in Willsboro.
Besides her experience with the executive branch, she has worked on national Republican campaigns, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s presidential bid and the vice presidential campaign of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Founded in 2010 by Mr. Rove and Virginia senatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, American Crossroads has never interceded in a Republican House primary before.
American Crossroads spokesman Paul Lindsay told the Syracuse Post Standard, “We think it’s time for a fresh start in this district, especially when Republicans have such a tremendous pickup opportunity with an open seat.”
Mr. Owens, who was in town this week campaigning with Democratic congressional candidate Aaron G. Woolf, is stepping down from his post at the end of the year.
Both Mr. Doheny’s mailer and the ad being run by American Crossroads contain inaccurate attributions to the Times.
The “Mistakes” ad cites a Times blog post that referred to a 2012 analysis of New York House races that originally appeared on Roll Call, in which Mr. Doheny was called “a significantly flawed candidate.”
The ad incorrectly attributed the characterization directly to the Times.
On Tuesday, Ms. Stefanik’s campaign referred all questions about the ad to American Crossroads.
The PAC has purchased a combined 88 advertising spots on WWNY and WYNF, Watertown’s CBS and Fox affiliates, at a cost of $28,845. The ads will run from June 3 through June 15.
Separately, Ms. Stefanik’s campaign has purchased 71 30-second ad spots at a cost of $13,345 from June 16 through June 29.
Mr. Doheny and Ms. Stefanik will face each other in a June 24 primary election. Mr. Doheny has secured the state Independence Party line while Ms. Stefanik has captured the state Conservative Party line.
Both candidates will be on the ballot on their respective minor party lines in November, regardless of the Republican primary’s outcome.
They will face Mr. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello in November.